Aegean Airlines, the owner of Olympic Air and the flag carrier of Greece, operates flights to nearly every single major Greek airport. It also flies fly across the Mediterranean and to every major city in Europe… however, it doesn’t have a single long-haul aircraft.
The case for long-haul flights
Considering that Greece is a massive tourist destination and that Aegean has an excellent reputation in Europe (its inflight meals are honestly fantastic), long-haul services are right up its alley.
Currently, the carrier only has 50 aircraft, a mix of Airbus A320s and neos, and has another 29 A320neos (and A321neos) on order for fleet expansion. Notably absent is anything bigger than the A321neo.
You would think that Aegean could easily operate long haul routes to destinations like China, or North America, or at least Southeast Asia/Oceania. Why did the Greek carrier never expand into long-haul operations? Let’s explore.
The three main reasons
There are three reasons why Aegean Airlines has not expanded into true-long haul services.
The first is their hub airport of Athens. Athens, at one point, was set on becoming a world powerhouse of an airport hub. It was the biggest in the region in the 90s and had plenty of room to expand. However, the managers at the time seemed to let the opportunity slip and other airports (like nearby Istanbul Airport) were built and took over that mantle.
Case in point, on a recent trip from Singapore to Greece, there were few flights (if any) that linked the two cities. Without a large and popular hub, Aegean would only be operating to smaller airports.
In addition to that last point, as many of these small islands only have short runways, Aegean would have limited locations to fly their long-haul aircraft (although the A330-800neo would be perfect for the airline thanks to its ability to land on short runways).
The second is that the Greek airline business model is incredibly seasonal. Greece is hugely popular in the summer months, and Aegean finds itself hiring extra A320 aircraft every year (a typical reason why their livery is so plain, so they can swap in new aircraft).
However, the months are lean in winter and Aegean actually shuts down entire routes from international destinations to popular islands. So, would there be enough business in the winter for a whole long-haul aircraft?
As for the third…
Aegean doesn’t want to go long-haul
Speaking to Airline Geeks, Aegean Airlines explained why it never went into the long-haul business, despite the perceived lost opportunity.
“The airline business is notorious for its profitability. It’s very difficult to achieve even low profit-margins and it’s very easy to lose lots of money. Look at the recent bankruptcies in Europe (FlyBMI, Primera, Small Planet, Cobalt, Germania, Air Berlin, etc.) You need to focus on what you’re doing well. If you decide to change your model, you’d better be sure that you can do it well.” spoke Dimitris Gerogiannis, CEO of Aegean Airlines to Airline Geeks.
“The airline business is not a business that you can experiment a lot with models and long-haul is a completely different business model. We’re not going to think about it before we feel that there is a real opportunity for Aegean and for our capabilities. We know what we’re good at, and we know what we’re probably not good at…”
What do you think of this? Should it go long-haul? Let us know in the comments.